The mist is heavy, the air is thick, the mountains loom out before us like giants appearing from smoke. We wandered down towards the river and walked along beside it. A small fork separated from it which we had to cross first, and we went to the water’s edge to check the view and take some photos. Someone’s clothes hung drying under the long sweeping bridge. Across the river were fishermen set up with couches perched on the rocks.
There was a small path along the side of the river and a sharp jutting cliff peak stuck out above us. Meiqi got distracted by a hover fly, which she stopped to film as it buzzed from flower to flower, and a butterfly she chased to photograph. I walked ahead across the bridge enjoying the heat trapped beneath the thick cloud layer, enjoying the space from my companions.
I stopped to photograph the fishermen on the rocks, and thats where Nate caught up to me. We waited for Meiqi who eventually wandered over the bridge.
The river itself didn’t hold much beauty, it was the mountains that stuck out from it in lumpy protrusions that boasted all of the glory. We continued along the side of the river towards “Elephant hill” a mountain formation that looked like an elephant hanging its trunk in the water. The view of the hill from the ground was really what was more spectacular, and the hike up it was going to cost 75 RMB so we checked out our map and, then our travel guide, and soon were on our way to “Seven Stars Park” which was much larger and boasted frequent monkey sightings. Sounded like a lot more bang for our buck!
We entered through the gates in this heavy sauna like fog and thick humidity. We were surrounded in green: lush leaves and vegetation. There were signs everywhere warning about the wild monkeys and help phone numbers posted every 100m. We could hear shouts from a Chinese tour group to our left so I climbed up one of the steeply arched bridges to take a look while Nate and Amanda went in search of a bathroom. (The tour group) was playing some sort of game with wooden poles. They all stood in a circle holding their poles straight upwards and when someone yelled they let go of their pole and stepped over to grab their neighbour’s before it hit the ground.
There are these little hand held radios that many older Chinese people will carry around with them on hikes up mountains, or walks in parks. Nate and I had picked one up in honour of our tradition with Meiqi of listening to the “Zelda” sound tract. It made all of our adventures seem that much more adventurous. Today we put on “misty mountains” from “The Hobbit” sound tract as it seemed the most appropriate.
We took a set of steps up to get a better look at a pagoda-type temple that poked out from behind the green of the trees. There were construction workers lugging stone up the steps, using a pole to balance the weight on their shoulders. There was wire wrapped around the stone and hanging from the pole. The worker would hook the wires together and begin their laboured climb.
We could hear a cacophony of instruments playing above us, and came across a music class with Chinese violin like instruments. The building had a stone courtyard with a rock wall built from the mountain cliff surrounding it. A set of stairs led down through a tunnel in the stone.
Leaving the temple behind us we followed the path below the mountain until we found a new place to climb and then we once again began assent with misty mountains song accompaniment. There was a funny translation error in the signs along the path that read “Tourist area, do not enter”. Very confusing as usually tourists are encouraged to enter “tourist areas”. Perhaps the signs were trying to warn the monkeys to stay out of the areas where the tourists went!
I dared to enter one such area and perched myself on a rock, camera poised in a perfect view. The thick misty clouds surrounded me drowning out the city that rushed by below us, and leaving only to view the towering shapes of those karst mountain cliffs. I heard something move above me, and past me tumbled some part of a tree. Upwards I turned my head to the branches above, but whatever those lush leaves concealed did not show. I climbed down to join my companions who were beginning to wonder what I was searching for. “Nothing,” I told them, “I thought maybe a monkey, but I don’t see any.”
At the top we stood next to “thunderstorm weather do not stay” warning signs and took in the view. Our music drowned out the still audible sound of the streets below and the city surrounding us disappeared completely in our music and the thick fog. There was no one else around and we were able to stand for a moment in complete isolation.
On our way back down, right about the place I had hear the noise in the tree, we found a monkey squatting along the side of the path. Cameras out, click, click, click, Nate asked for his camera from his bag ZIIIP and WOOM we had the monkey’s attention. “Don’t make eye contact,” I muttered as it started walking towards us as if to say hey man what’s in the bag… Slowly, slowly I did Nate’s bag back up, click, click, click. We stood breathless, inches away from our monkey buddy, until finally he lost interest.
“Ma ma, hoze!” (mommy, monkey) a small girl said, her voice shrill with excitement as she rounded the corner towards our friend. Our excitement at seeing the small human like animal could only be matched by this five(ish) year old.
We walked past a pond with little boats inside. They had water guns attached, brilliant! We headed towards one of the parks main attractions, a rock formation that looked like a camel. A pond lined with flowering trees, a thick blanket of pink petals carpeting the ground below, stood in front of the oddly shaped cliffs. We watched some early riser bats swoop over it’s murky surface.
We made one last stop for the night to view the sun and moon pagoda before it was time to find a place to eat.
We took a bus to the pedestrian street to find a place for dinner. The street was packed with booths full of traditional Chinese clothes, paintings, and trinkets. After dinner we backtracked to check out some kissing fish spas we’d passed earlier. For 25 RMB we were able to dangle our feet in the tanks and let the fish pick at our dead skin for 45 min- 2 hours!
The fish went in a frenzy when we first sat down, swarming and chasing our feet as we moved them over the tank. The second we put our feet in the tank they attacked, nibbling away, searching for the most ticklish places under the feet and between the toes. It took a while before I could keep my feet in. At first I kept putting them in only to jerk them out again. I began switching back and forth from one foot to the other, jerking each time the fish and my skin made contact. Amanda and Nate had their feet in by now and were laughing at my difficulties. Finally I got both feet to the bottom and sat there twitching, barely able to contain my selve until the nerves finally began to (acclimatize).
We’d met a tour guide, Colin, earlier who had given us his card. He offered a trip down to Yangshuo that came with a lazy boat ride down the river. After checking out the (more expensive) prices from the hostel, we called Colin and he was able set up the tour for the next morning despite the late hour.